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Opinion – Luciano Melo: Lucid dreams and neurology


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It even seems like a hallucination, when you recognize the non-existence of everything around you, and decipher the scenery around you as a vivid mental creation. Although all the components built there can strongly influence the senses, the existence of an external and real world, silenced, that does not update consciousness is not ignored.

It seems, but it is not hallucination, it is a type of dreams, lucid dreams. Rare and surprising exceptions, which make someone aware that they are dreaming at the exact moment they are. Those who reach this state are capable of remembering the circumstances of their waking hours, of thinking clearly, of “acting” according to their reflections and even of following a script, created before going to sleep.

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Lucid dreams usually feel better than others. It is easy to suppose a reason, because the dreamer is able to control the dreamed plot, a bonus of lucidity to transform the dream into a fun option. But it can go beyond hedonism, such control can mitigate the suffering caused by recurring nightmares, inconveniences common to the depressed, those facing post-traumatic stress disorder and the anxious. Other possible benefits: alleviating the malaise caused by insomnia, creating a rehearsal opportunity for a future activity, and providing creative inspiration. Lucid dreaming is a trait that can be learned and trained.

Here’s the recipe. One of the first techniques requires excellent dream recall. The ideal is to remember details of a dream as soon as it is interrupted by awakening and identify the absurdities that only happen in dream phenomena. Then, again, all the dreamed action is recalled, with special attention to the strange sequences. With discipline, during sleep, it will be possible to recognize some bizarre dreamed inconsistency, the clue that will bring awareness. It will then be enough to edit your lucid dream.

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If you manage to control your dream, you have another trump card, you can also decide to stay in deep sleep, at least for a while, while analyzing some environmental intrusions that would wake you up. A multicenter study published in 2021 in the influential journal Current Biology showed that “experienced” lucid dreamers are able to answer questions, through eye movements or facial mimics, while continuing to sleep and dream. Practically, the volunteers resisted not waking up, although they communicated with the environment, elaborating complex mechanisms of consciousness.

Lucid dreams were defined as a hybrid state, half sleep half waking. And, unlike trivial dreams, it would happen because the frontal lobes are fully functioning, sites specialized in making the emergence of criticism, logic and reason. Currently, laboratory data show that the brain reaches above-average levels of activation during lucid dreams, but this activity lies within the normal range of sleep. In other words, there is no hybrid state, lucid dreaming is pure sleep. It does not happen at the expense of the action of a restricted brain cortical area. On the contrary, it emerges through an appropriate diffuse brain activity.

Studies on lucid dreams, on their potential therapeutic or merely recreational uses, their physiological bases can bring us precious information about other sleep phenomena. Knowledge that will possibly go beyond the domain of these islands of sleep lucidity, and impact our understanding of certain degenerative diseases. Parkinson’s disease, for example, many years before it triggers its most recognizable symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity, can cause increased frequency of nightmares, vivid dreams, and motor agitation during dreams. Science about lucid dreams will be able to discover data about these manifestations.


1. Baird B, Tononi G, LaBerge S. Lucid dreaming occurs in activated rapid eye movement sleep, not a mixture of sleep and wakefulness. Sleep. 2022 Apr 1;45(4):zsab294.

2. Stumbrys T. Dispelling the shadows of the lucid night: An exploration of potential adverse effects of lucid dreaming. Psychol Conscious Theory Res Pract. 2021; Advance online publication.

3. LaBerge S, LaMarca K, Baird B. Pre-sleep treatment with galantamine stimulates lucid dreaming: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. PloS One. 2018;13(8):e0201246.

4. Mallett R, Sowin L, Raider R, Konkoly KR, Paller KA. Benefits and concerns of seeking and experiencing lucid dreams: Benefits are tied to successful induction and dream control. SLEEP Adv. 2022 Sep 7;zpac027.

5. Konkoly KR, Appel K, Chabani E, Mangiaruga A, Gott J, Mallett R, et al. Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during REM sleep. Curr Biol CB. 2021 Apr 12;31(7):1417-1427.e6

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